Suitable lens for dog photography

vasal

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Hello, I have a Nikon D5100. I'm interested in dog photography mainly (and animal photography in general) and it turns out that the 18-55 VR is not enough for me. It was a good start but I need an upgrade. I was thinking about a variety of lenses (55-300VR, 18-300VR, 70-300VR)-i am more into 70-300 mm VR but any comment would be really helpful-, i need the extra zoom for dog sports events and fast focus on moving subjects even at 200+mm. Any other suggestion on this budget would be nice.

PS. If there's any dog photographer here I would really appreciate some tips-any tips and would love to check your work (on flickr for example)

thank you, i'm looking forward to hearing from you.
 
For moving dog images, fast focus is critical. My go-to lens for this sort of work is the 70-200 f2.8. Used, VR1 versions can be had for ~$1000ish these days if you look around.
 
Hi Vasal and welcome to TPF.

Do you have some of your own dog photographs to share?
You mentioned a budget, but you did not put a dollar amount.
 
Ok, not sure why you would want to let your dog take pictures.. but sure.. lol

My recommendation would be the Tamron 70-300 mm VC. Great lens and you can get them used much cheaper than the Nikkor 70-300 mm VC. I buy a lot of used equipment from KEH Camera, always had excellent luck in dealing with them.
 
Thanks for the replies. I'm looking for a lens around 400€ used so I guess around 600€ new.
 
Ok, not sure why you would want to let your dog take pictures.. but sure.. lol

My recommendation would be the Tamron 70-300 mm VC. Great lens and you can get them used much cheaper than the Nikkor 70-300 mm VC. I buy a lot of used equipment from KEH Camera, always had excellent luck in dealing with them.
Apart from the price, tamron is better than nikkor?
 
Ok, not sure why you would want to let your dog take pictures.. but sure.. lol

My recommendation would be the Tamron 70-300 mm VC. Great lens and you can get them used much cheaper than the Nikkor 70-300 mm VC. I buy a lot of used equipment from KEH Camera, always had excellent luck in dealing with them.
Apart from the price, tamron is better than nikkor?

I'd say the Nikkor probably has better build quality, but of the two I actually preferred the tamron for the way it renders images. They are both very sharp and both autofocus about the same, speed wise.
 
Ok, not sure why you would want to let your dog take pictures.. but sure.. lol

My recommendation would be the Tamron 70-300 mm VC. Great lens and you can get them used much cheaper than the Nikkor 70-300 mm VC. I buy a lot of used equipment from KEH Camera, always had excellent luck in dealing with them.
Apart from the price, tamron is better than nikkor?

I'd say the Nikkor probably has better build quality, but of the two I actually preferred the tamron for the way it renders images. They are both very sharp and both autofocus about the same, speed wise.
Thanks for the answer :)
 
Ok...dog and critter photographer here. These are, as always, just my own opinions, however here's what I've found through my own experience over the years. This is gonna get a tad long, so go grab a fresh cup of coffee...I'll wait :)

While I'm typically the last person to say "go spend more money" and I do try to be as budget-conscious, if not frugal as I can, in this case I would actually suggest 2 lenses. For indoor events, such as dog shows and such, yea...you're gonna want that 70-200mm f/2.8. Personally I prefer Tamron over any other brand I've tried (both as a Nikon shooter and a former Canon shooter). Even in a very well lit arena, I suspect you'll find such a lens to be invaluable. That said, these lenses do have a couple of disadvantages as well...aside from price (comparatively speaking), first and foremost, they're a tad heavy. I can't speak to others and I will admit that now that I've hit 50, I'm more aware of such concerns than ever, however having to lug that big ol' piece of glass around for several hours can and will cause a fair degree of fatigue! Second, I also find that in other situations...shooting at a dog park or even a zoo for example...that 200mm can be rather limiting.

With that in mind, if you have any intentions of shooting outdoors...again, zoos, dog parks, etc., I'd also suggest investing in a 70-300 as well. I use a Tamron 70-300mm f/4 to 5.6 for the greatest majority of my critter work (yes, the CHEAP Tamron). In situations where you don't really need the fast glass, this lens has the advantage of being much lighter, easier to handle and gives you a pretty good degree of extra reach. This is just my own personal opinion, however with camera tech being as good as it is with some really great ISO capabilities, given a choice between an extra 100mm and an extra stop or two of light, I'll take the longer reach. You can usually bump that ISO a click or two with the press of a button (and with Nikons and RAW it's usually pretty easy to clean up in Photoshop), however it's not always possible to get close enough to a given critter for your shot to really be effective. The truth is that even at 300mm, I often find myself wishing I had just a bit more...

I will say that personally I'm not really a fan of VR. As I've said elsewhere, I wouldn't thumb my nose at it if I had it, however I simply won't pay extra for it either. The simple fact of the matter is that learning good camera technique will take you further than VR ever will. A good photographer can make due without VR, however VR will never make up for a poor photographer with bad technique...just something to think about.



Now as far as general tips and suggestions...the best advice I can offer is learn to ANTICIPATE YOUR SHOTS! Dog shows, in my opinion at least, are actually pretty easy to shoot because unlike a dog park for example, where the "subject" may be running all over the place chasing tennis balls, dogs performing in a show are typically predictable, even where you have some fast paced motion. Consider an "obstacle course" for example...you can usually predict where a given dog will be at any time during that run, so you can compose your shot, have your exposure set and pre-focus the camera...all you really gotta do is just click the shutter button when the dog gets there. For that matter, you can do the same thing at a dog park as well...just pick a tennis ball to focus on and when the dog runs by, click the shutter. In such a case, I almost might compare the process to traditional sport photography. Say you're shooting a baseball game...you KNOW the pitcher is going to throw the ball, you KNOW the batter is going to swing, so all you have to do is be patient and be ready, so that when the ball connects with the bat for that winning home run, all you have to do is "click". Now, beyond that there's certainly a few other things to consider...

For dogs or critters in general, pay attention to the angle you're shooting at. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make, whether it's dogs, chimps or even human children, is they shoot from an "adult perspective", which more often than not, tends to make the subject look "small" if not disproportionate in the image. This may be fine if your shooting a toy Chihuahua, but can make a Rottweiler look REALLY awkward. This is more a rule of thumb than anything set in stone, but I generally try to be eye level with the subject. Sometimes an interesting angle can make for an interesting picture, but it's best to know the rules before you start to break them.

Likewise, I try to get shots that are fairly natural. I've found this at dog parks more than anything, but often I've ran into situations where someone will see me taking pictures of their dog and try to "pose" the dog for me...it seldom works. While this applies to most critters, I always find it best to "let dogs be dogs"...a picture of a happy dog playing always looks better than one who's being yelled at because he/she won't sit and look at the camera!

I am also a very firm believer in the concept of "examine and eliminate". While this obviously applies to most forms of photography, always take a moment and ask yourself "what is this shot about?". For example, let's say your taking pictures of the orangutans at a zoo. As you look thru the view finder, look at what else is being framed with the orangutan and ask what is the shot about. Is it about the other people watching the orangutan? Is it about the orangutan's habitat? Is it about that large glob of poop the orangutan just flung on the wall? Or...is it about the orangutan? The same goes for a dog show...is your picture about the crowd watching the show? Is it about the judges? Is it about the concession stand in the background? Once you've decided what the picture is actually about, then zoom in tight on the subject and eliminate anything that doesn't contribute to the composition.

For critters in general, I also suggest that you KNOW YOUR SUBJECT! To make this easier, again let's consider a zoo for example. Different animals have different behaviors and certainly different times when they're active. What's the point of trying to shoot wolves or the big cats in the middle of a hot afternoon when they're going to be sleeping? Makes for some pretty boring shots most of the time... Likewise, for places like zoos and nature centers and such, it's worth asking when a given critter's feeding time is! An animal that may lay around basking in the sun all day is likely to be much more active when they know that food cart is on it's way! Likewise this same philosophy goes double for animals "in the wild"...know your subject! Many critters, such as white tailed deer for example tend to become active in the evening and hour or so before sunset. If your out traipsing thru the woods looking for deer at 2 in the afternoon, there's a better than average chance you're gonna come home empty handed.

While this one is more about zoo photography than dogs specifically, I also suggest that you pick and choose! One huge mistake I see with people's images at someplace like a zoo is that they blow thru the zoo like a whirlwind trying to see EVERYTHING. They run up to the spider monkeys, stick their camera phone against the glass (usually with the stinkin' flash turn on) and 30 seconds later they're over at the lemurs. This is fine for a family outing and you may even get 1 or 2 pics to send to Aunt Helen, but more often that not such pictures tend to have very little "wow factor". If I'm shooting at the zoo with the intent of getting some GOOD pictures...say for an exhibition or my portfolio, etc., I'll select a few specific subjects...say orangutans, bears and penguins, then I'll spend AT LEAST an hour or two at each exhibit/habitat. I will of course have a couple of backups in case someone is sleeping that afternoon, but for the most part, I really only spend the afternoon with just a few select groups of critters.

And btw...if you are shooting at a zoo, turn off the stinkin' flash. If you -must- use flash, consider getting a remote trigger so that you can put the flash on a tripod off to the side...aside from annoying the critters, on camera flash just bounces off the glass and your image will likely end up with whiteout conditions.

Now I will say that I do often use a few little tricks as well. I would NOT do this at a dog show, but if I'm shooting at the dog park, it's not unheard of for me to keep a squeaky toy in my camera bag! LOL! You may only get a few clicks before the dog starts to ignore you, but most dogs will usually respond to a squeaky toy or whistle long enough to get a really great shot or two. In fact, for zoo stuff, I've actually used a cheapy laser pointer on occasion (do NOT shine it in anyone's eyes!!!). Some of my best squirrel shots were the result of a leisurely afternoon and a bag of peanuts! I parked myself against a tree at a local park, sprinkled some peanuts around me and the little buggers just appeared out of nowhere LOL! I even had a really bold little stinker that crawled down the tree I was sitting against and had his feet on my shoulder! I don't actually condone feeding wild animals...it's a REALLY bad thing to do, but in the right circumstance, a little enticement (treats at the dog park) can make for some lovely images. That said, with places such as zoos and nature centers and such, don't just stand there yelling "hey monkey!"...aside from looking like a complete idiot, most of those animals put up with it every day and tend to simply ignore it (see my comments below about "be respectful").

Finally...and while this should go without saying...BE RESPECTFUL! Be it dogs, chimps or bald eagles, NEVER do anything that actually annoys or disturbs the animal. Here in Lorain County, we have a local nature preserve and a few years back a couple of over-zealous photographers were trying to get some pictures of baby bald eagles in a nest. Tragically, the parents never returned to the nest and the babies died...all so a couple of freakin' yahoos could get a couple of pictures. Likewise, also remember that a great many creatures don't see you and your camera as a "photographer"...a lot of animals (including dogs) will see that reflective lens as a big ol' eyeball! Again be respectful...if the critter don't like it, simply move on! And for the love of god, use common sense! If you're using a 35mm lens, DON'T TRY TO SNEAK UP ON A GRIZZLY! Unless you have a great deal of experience handling "hot snakes", DON'T TRY AND DO MACRO SHOTS OF A RATTLESNAKE! NEVER walk up to a wild cougar and go "Here kitty, kitty..."! Remember that 12 point buck CAN tear your spleen out! Unless your paycheck is actually being signed by the folks at National Geographic, no picture is worth risking your life over!

Okies...I hope that gives you some insight. Obviously there's a lot more, but that's what I would strongly consider to be many of the basics. If you'd like to take a look at my work, my online portfolio can be found at The Online Portfolio of James T. Walczak - Main Index (please be patient as images load...it's a REALLY slow server) and if you look me up on Facebook, I have a fairly significant amount of work including critter and dog pics there as well. Comments and critiques are always welcomed and encouraged!

Good Luck!
 

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Ok...dog and critter photographer here. These are, as always, just my own opinions, however here's what I've found through my own experience over the years. This is gonna get a tad long, so go grab a fresh cup of coffee...I'll wait :)

While I'm typically the last person to say "go spend more money" and I do try to be as budget-conscious, if not frugal as I can, in this case I would actually suggest 2 lenses. For indoor events, such as dog shows and such, yea...you're gonna want that 70-200mm f/2.8. Personally I prefer Tamron over any other brand I've tried (both as a Nikon shooter and a former Canon shooter). Even in a very well lit arena, I suspect you'll find such a lens to be invaluable. That said, these lenses do have a couple of disadvantages as well...aside from price (comparatively speaking), first and foremost, they're a tad heavy. I can't speak to others and I will admit that now that I've hit 50, I'm more aware of such concerns than ever, however having to lug that big ol' piece of glass around for several hours can and will cause a fair degree of fatigue! Second, I also find that in other situations...shooting at a dog park or even a zoo for example...that 200mm can be rather limiting.

With that in mind, if you have any intentions of shooting outdoors...again, zoos, dog parks, etc., I'd also suggest investing in a 70-300 as well. I use a Tamron 70-300mm f/4 to 5.6 for the greatest majority of my critter work (yes, the CHEAP Tamron). In situations where you don't really need the fast glass, this lens has the advantage of being much lighter, easier to handle and gives you a pretty good degree of extra reach. This is just my own personal opinion, however with camera tech being as good as it is with some really great ISO capabilities, given a choice between an extra 100mm and an extra stop or two of light, I'll take the longer reach. You can usually bump that ISO a click or two with the press of a button (and with Nikons and RAW it's usually pretty easy to clean up in Photoshop), however it's not always possible to get close enough to a given critter for your shot to really be effective. The truth is that even at 300mm, I often find myself wishing I had just a bit more...

I will say that personally I'm not really a fan of VR. As I've said elsewhere, I wouldn't thumb my nose at it if I had it, however I simply won't pay extra for it either. The simple fact of the matter is that learning good camera technique will take you further than VR ever will. A good photographer can make due without VR, however VR will never make up for a poor photographer with bad technique...just something to think about.



Now as far as general tips and suggestions...the best advice I can offer is learn to ANTICIPATE YOUR SHOTS! Dog shows, in my opinion at least, are actually pretty easy to shoot because unlike a dog park for example, where the "subject" may be running all over the place chasing tennis balls, dogs performing in a show are typically predictable, even where you have some fast paced motion. Consider an "obstacle course" for example...you can usually predict where a given dog will be at any time during that run, so you can compose your shot, have your exposure set and pre-focus the camera...all you really gotta do is just click the shutter button when the dog gets there. For that matter, you can do the same thing at a dog park as well...just pick a tennis ball to focus on and when the dog runs by, click the shutter. In such a case, I almost might compare the process to traditional sport photography. Say you're shooting a baseball game...you KNOW the pitcher is going to throw the ball, you KNOW the batter is going to swing, so all you have to do is be patient and be ready, so that when the ball connects with the bat for that winning home run, all you have to do is "click". Now, beyond that there's certainly a few other things to consider...

For dogs or critters in general, pay attention to the angle you're shooting at. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make, whether it's dogs, chimps or even human children, is they shoot from an "adult perspective", which more often than not, tends to make the subject look "small" if not disproportionate in the image. This may be fine if your shooting a toy Chihuahua, but can make a Rottweiler look REALLY awkward. This is more a rule of thumb than anything set in stone, but I generally try to be eye level with the subject. Sometimes an interesting angle can make for an interesting picture, but it's best to know the rules before you start to break them.

Likewise, I try to get shots that are fairly natural. I've found this at dog parks more than anything, but often I've ran into situations where someone will see me taking pictures of their dog and try to "pose" the dog for me...it seldom works. While this applies to most critters, I always find it best to "let dogs be dogs"...a picture of a happy dog playing always looks better than one who's being yelled at because he/she won't sit and look at the camera!

I am also a very firm believer in the concept of "examine and eliminate". While this obviously applies to most forms of photography, always take a moment and ask yourself "what is this shot about?". For example, let's say your taking pictures of the orangutans at a zoo. As you look thru the view finder, look at what else is being framed with the orangutan and ask what is the shot about. Is it about the other people watching the orangutan? Is it about the orangutan's habitat? Is it about that large glob of poop the orangutan just flung on the wall? Or...is it about the orangutan? The same goes for a dog show...is your picture about the crowd watching the show? Is it about the judges? Is it about the concession stand in the background? Once you've decided what the picture is actually about, then zoom in tight on the subject and eliminate anything that doesn't contribute to the composition.

For critters in general, I also suggest that you KNOW YOUR SUBJECT! To make this easier, again let's consider a zoo for example. Different animals have different behaviors and certainly different times when they're active. What's the point of trying to shoot wolves or the big cats in the middle of a hot afternoon when they're going to be sleeping? Makes for some pretty boring shots most of the time... Likewise, for places like zoos and nature centers and such, it's worth asking when a given critter's feeding time is! An animal that may lay around basking in the sun all day is likely to be much more active when they know that food cart is on it's way! Likewise this same philosophy goes double for animals "in the wild"...know your subject! Many critters, such as white tailed deer for example tend to become active in the evening and hour or so before sunset. If your out traipsing thru the woods looking for deer at 2 in the afternoon, there's a better than average chance you're gonna come home empty handed.

While this one is more about zoo photography than dogs specifically, I also suggest that you pick and choose! One huge mistake I see with people's images at someplace like a zoo is that they blow thru the zoo like a whirlwind trying to see EVERYTHING. They run up to the spider monkeys, stick their camera phone against the glass (usually with the stinkin' flash turn on) and 30 seconds later they're over at the lemurs. This is fine for a family outing and you may even get 1 or 2 pics to send to Aunt Helen, but more often that not such pictures tend to have very little "wow factor". If I'm shooting at the zoo with the intent of getting some GOOD pictures...say for an exhibition or my portfolio, etc., I'll select a few specific subjects...say orangutans, bears and penguins, then I'll spend AT LEAST an hour or two at each exhibit/habitat. I will of course have a couple of backups in case someone is sleeping that afternoon, but for the most part, I really only spend the afternoon with just a few select groups of critters.

And btw...if you are shooting at a zoo, turn off the stinkin' flash. If you -must- use flash, consider getting a remote trigger so that you can put the flash on a tripod off to the side...aside from annoying the critters, on camera flash just bounces off the glass and your image will likely end up with whiteout conditions.

Now I will say that I do often use a few little tricks as well. I would NOT do this at a dog show, but if I'm shooting at the dog park, it's not unheard of for me to keep a squeaky toy in my camera bag! LOL! You may only get a few clicks before the dog starts to ignore you, but most dogs will usually respond to a squeaky toy or whistle long enough to get a really great shot or two. In fact, for zoo stuff, I've actually used a cheapy laser pointer on occasion (do NOT shine it in anyone's eyes!!!). Some of my best squirrel shots were the result of a leisurely afternoon and a bag of peanuts! I parked myself against a tree at a local park, sprinkled some peanuts around me and the little buggers just appeared out of nowhere LOL! I even had a really bold little stinker that crawled down the tree I was sitting against and had his feet on my shoulder! I don't actually condone feeding wild animals...it's a REALLY bad thing to do, but in the right circumstance, a little enticement (treats at the dog park) can make for some lovely images. That said, with places such as zoos and nature centers and such, don't just stand there yelling "hey monkey!"...aside from looking like a complete idiot, most of those animals put up with it every day and tend to simply ignore it (see my comments below about "be respectful").

Finally...and while this should go without saying...BE RESPECTFUL! Be it dogs, chimps or bald eagles, NEVER do anything that actually annoys or disturbs the animal. Here in Lorain County, we have a local nature preserve and a few years back a couple of over-zealous photographers were trying to get some pictures of baby bald eagles in a nest. Tragically, the parents never returned to the nest and the babies died...all so a couple of freakin' yahoos could get a couple of pictures. Likewise, also remember that a great many creatures don't see you and your camera as a "photographer"...a lot of animals (including dogs) will see that reflective lens as a big ol' eyeball! Again be respectful...if the critter don't like it, simply move on! And for the love of god, use common sense! If you're using a 35mm lens, DON'T TRY TO SNEAK UP ON A GRIZZLY! Unless you have a great deal of experience handling "hot snakes", DON'T TRY AND DO MACRO SHOTS OF A RATTLESNAKE! NEVER walk up to a wild cougar and go "Here kitty, kitty..."! Remember that 12 point buck CAN tear your spleen out! Unless your paycheck is actually being signed by the folks at National Geographic, no picture is worth risking your life over!

Okies...I hope that gives you some insight. Obviously there's a lot more, but that's what I would strongly consider to be many of the basics. If you'd like to take a look at my work, my online portfolio can be found at The Online Portfolio of James T. Walczak - Main Index (please be patient as images load...it's a REALLY slow server) and if you look me up on Facebook, I have a fairly significant amount of work including critter and dog pics there as well. Comments and critiques are always welcomed and encouraged!

Good Luck!

Some excellent advice here. As Jim Mentioned VR often gets used as a crutch by people and depending on what you're trying to accomplish can actually be a hindrance. I own and absolutely love my Tamron 70-300mm VC lens. I've shot many dog shots with it as well as other fast moving subjects such as planes and motorcycles. It is a lens that can do many things well. True it's not a 2.8 lens, however 90% of the stuff I do with dogs or other animals is done outside during the day in decent light. However, in the rare event that I have to shoot indoors I break out my beastly old Nikon 80-200 2.8. The auto focus on my "pro" level 80-200 is actually slower than the Tamron simply due to the fact that the auto focus is Nikon's older AF series which uses a motor within the camera body to drive the auto focus. However this is only a minor nuisance as like Jim said above it's all about pre-focusing and setting up the shot in advance.

I will also ad that I've even done pet portraits using an old manual focus lens. As Jim mentioned in his post it's all about being patient and letting the dog do their own thing.

Here's a couple of shot's I've done of my dearly departed Siberian Husky Tundra (Had to put him down back in March of this year because of old age and failing health) using various different lenses. I've included the lens used above each photograph.

Tamron 70-300mm 4-5.6 VC
DSC_0158 by Garrett Cross, on Flickr

Nikon 80-200mm 2.8
DSC_0007 by Garrett Cross, on Flickr

Nikon Ai 135mm 2.8 (manual focus)
DSC_5525_portrait by Garrett Cross, on Flickr

In all of these shots I didn't pose him, but simply hung out and let him sniff around and calm down. Once he had checked out his area He then decided to simply just sit/lay down and chill. That's when I started shooting and this was was the result.

Edit: I decided I should post a photo showing how well the Tamron 70-300 VC can do with high speed action. This shot was taken during practice at a small local airshow. I was standing about 30'-40' from the edge of the runway and this plane came right down the runway at about 200mph. The plane was closing so fast that I was sure that the lens wasn't going to be able to focus fast enough, but it did and I got this wonderful motion blurred panning shot.

Also click here to see some of my other pet portraits.

Pitts%252520Special%252520high%252520speed%252520pass.jpg
 
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In my dog photography I primarily use two lenses (Canon) for portraits 24-70mm, especially with my Akita which yields a more pleasing and complimentary perspective. I also love my 70-200MM and use it often.
 
I had originally opened this thread to make a funny remark but the excellence of the responses has deterred me.

This quote below is really particilarly excellent and makes a point that, no matter what one's area of photography, should be considered.

I am also a very firm believer in the concept of "examine and eliminate". While this obviously applies to most forms of photography, always take a moment and ask yourself "what is this shot about?". For example, let's say your taking pictures of the orangutans at a zoo. As you look thru the view finder, look at what else is being framed with the orangutan and ask what is the shot about. Is it about the other people watching the orangutan? Is it about the orangutan's habitat? Is it about that large glob of poop the orangutan just flung on the wall? Or...is it about the orangutan? The same goes for a dog show...is your picture about the crowd watching the show? Is it about the judges? Is it about the concession stand in the background? Once you've decided what the picture is actually about, then zoom in tight on the subject and eliminate anything that doesn't contribute to the composition.
 
I just purchased the Tamron 70-300 mm VC lens for my Nikon D7100 body.. i think i was really happy that someone had brought this thread to my attention.. i was looking for another zoom lens that would have great quality at a reasonable price .. i have been using the tamron 18 270 mm for a long time.. but it started to give me a haze in the photo.. sent it back for a cleaning.. tiny little particles could be seen through the glass.. so while that one was gone.. i thought i would shop again.. thanks for all the great posts and information.. not sure i have the best settings because i was trying different ones just playing with the camera today.. but this is one i took of my lucky boy.. if theres anything anyone can add that i can do to improve please let me know.. thanks
 
result.jpg
here is the photo.. i had to resize because it would not upload here
 
First and foremost, thank you to everyone for the kind words regarding my post up there! I'm truly pleased that some people found my comments helpful. As such, I'll add just a couple more here...

As far as "cheap" lenses go, I think a lot of people get the wrong impression...or perhaps have some misconceptions imposed on them by the not-so-proverbial lens snobs out there. Don't get me wrong, pro lenses DO have their advantages, however it seems that too many people believe they "need" a pro lens to get good pictures.



The image above, my 6 month old husky/shepherd mix, Molly, was captured with a Tamron 70-300mm...the $150 non-VR version. Ok...ok...technically by using such a shallow DOF I did miss the focus point on her face by just a hair (if you look very closely, the sharpest point of focus ended up around her shoulders)...she was running full tilt down the river bank and this was just an "afternoon at the river". That said, I was able to clean it up a bit in Photoshop and I think it's going to make a really lovely print. Would this image have been better had I of used a $2000 lens instead? Perhaps. Would the difference be terribly significant....at least for use as a framed print in my office? No...not at all. The lighting was beautiful, the pose/composition is wonderful (in my not so humble opinion at least) and the image is more than sharp enough for my use. In this case, the only real flaw with the image really had nothing to do with the lens at all...it was simply due to the photographer (errr...me)...I probably should have stopped down just a little.

Very simply, a real pro knows what lens to use...and when. That said however, it's also well worth remembering (particularly for those who would offer advice on such things), that not everyone is looking to shoot the next cover for National Geographic! LOL! For "amateurs", avid hobbyists or even the occasional semi-pro, with some patience and practice, you can indeed get some very good shots with otherwise humble glass.

With that said, while this is very much a personal opinion, as both a photographer and an artist and art lover, I am of the very firm belief that "composition" will take you considerably further than the sharpest camera lens EVER can. I've seen various images over the years where people have ranted and raved about how great the image was because it was just so insanely tack sharp. One particular instance comes to mind (which I unfortunately no longer have the link for)...it was an old tire on the beach. It was a shot I saw years back on another forum and a few people had just gone on and on about how great that shot was because it was just sooooo insanely sharp. My response (which got a less than favorable reaction) was "So? It's a tire on a beach". The shot itself, despite being so razor sharp, was really quite boring to look at...it was quite literally just a piece of large trash that washed up on a beach somewhere. It was the kind of image that would get little or no attention at all if displayed in an exhibition with otherwise good images, simply because it really lacked any sense of an interesting composition. Had the image of been part of a series...say a documentation of trash on public beaches, it might have had some merit, however as a stand alone image, the sharpness alone wasn't enough to give the image any real aesthetic value.

The simple fact of the matter is that when people view your work, unless they happen to be photographers themselves, they're not going to know whether you used a Canon, Nikon or Sony body and they're certainly not going to know the difference between a $200 lens and one that cost $2000. The ONLY thing they know is whether they like the image or not. This is a lesson I learned as a musician...if I'm on stage on any given Saturday night tearing up the lead for say, "Sweet Home Alabama", 99% of the people in my audience really don't know the difference between a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Strat. Most people can't tell between a Marshall amp and a Fender amp. The only 2 things they really know are whether or not I played well and whether or not they enjoyed themselves! Same goes for photography...either people like your work or they don't.

So with that in mind, whether we're talking dogs and critter photography or landscapes, portrait work, etc., it's always best to purchase your lenses based on your own specific needs. And for those budding amateurs out there, remember, expensive gear does NOT a photographer make. While I know there are folks who disagree, personally I feel it's much better to learn the basics of composition, exposure, color, light, contrast, etc., BEFORE investing a great deal of money in your gear...as I've said so often, it's not about the gear, it's about the person using it.

Just a few extra thoughts...use them at your own peril :)
 

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